December 14, 1987 12:00 PM


Apparently they’re barely hangin’ in there. With this sixth album, X is still struggling to gain a wider audience by shedding the punk image they cultivated in the late ’70s. X emerged from the L.A. hard-core scene as one of the more polished groups, playing three-minute songs at high speed and encouraging disaffected suburban teenagers to slam-dance like bumper cars at full throttle. The band’s sound is still rough and nervous, but it lacks creative punch. John Doe (that’s his name) and Exene Cervenka are no longer Mr. and Mrs. X, though they still share the vocal duties with Cervenka harmonizing slightly off-key. I’m Lost, an ode to the homeless, is a good sample of the new X sound. D.J. Bonebrake still attacks the skins feverishly, but Billy Zoom’s highly charged solos are noticeably absent and ineffectively replaced by Tony Gilkyson’s more subdued riffs. (Zoom switched lead guitar roles with Dave Alvin of the Blasters, but neither remained with their new partners.) Producer Alvin Clark has tried to preserve the original sound and temper it with more traditional rock motifs, like having Benmont Tench from Tom Petty’s band sit in on keyboards. But the songs come off as mere copies of each other, the exceptions being 4th of July, a metaphorical number about the end of a relationship, written by Dave Alvin, and Cyrano de Berger’s Back. If the next X album is called We’re Doing Fine, it will have to include the material to back up that claim. (Elektra)

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